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The Wilton Diptych (relates to Richard II)

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The Wilton Diptych (relates to Richard II)

by Wenceslaus Hollar, after Unknown artist
etching, 1639
9 3/4 in. x 5 1/4 in. (249 mm x 134 mm) paper size
Given by the daughter of compiler William Fleming MD, Mary Elizabeth Stopford (née Fleming), 1931
Reference Collection
NPG D9393

Artistsback to top

  • Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677), Etcher. Artist associated with 540 portraits, Sitter associated with 10 portraits.
  • Unknown artist, Artist. Artist associated with 6556 portraits.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D9392: The Wilton Diptych (King Richard II) (companion portrait)

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1639back to top

Current affairs

First Bishop's War. Conflict between Scotland and England over the king's intention to replace Scottish Presbyterianism with High Anglicanism is fiercely opposed by Scottish covenanters. Both sides assemble armies with Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll emerging as leader of the covenanters. Only skirmishes occur, quickly leading to negotiations at Berwick.

Art and science

Archbishop Laud donates the Peterborough Chronicle, one of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, to the Bodleian Library.
Astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks having predicted the transit of Venus in November, observes and records it. Horrocks's draft treatise on the planet's transit, Venus in sole visa, is posthumously published by Johannes Hevelius in 1662.


Naval Battle of the Downs. Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp, decisively defeats the Spanish, under Admiral Antonio de Oquendo. It is fought in the English Channel.
Francis Day, of the British East India Company, acquires land from King of Chandragiri, and founds Fort St. George, which would later become Madras (Chennai).

Tell us more back to top

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Howard Jones

07 March 2020, 15:34

In 1948 Joan Evans the editor of the Archaeological Journal proposed that King Richard's mother Princess Joan was portrayed as the Virgin in the Wilton Diptych. The Madonna is encircled by 11 White Harts the personal emblem of the Princess and the badge of King Richard.

It is generally accepted that the image of King Richard in this painting is a lifelike portrait (even if it was copied from an earlier picture of Richard who is shown in his youth). The Princess later known as the 'Fair Maid of Kent' was described by Frossiart as the most beautiful woman in England. She also acquired the name the Virgin of Kent.

Just after her death in 1450 Agnes Sorel the beautiful mistress of the French King was portrayed as the Virgin by Jean Fouquet. The portrayal of family members of the commissioners in religious pictures was also in vogue in late 14th Century Italian paintings.

Shakespeare must have been shown the Wilton painting just before he sat down to write John O'Gaunt's famed Scepter'd Isle speech. The opening line 'Me thinks I am a prophet new inspired' clearly relates to the figure of John the Baptist the prophet wearing a camel skin cloak in the opposing panel. Dillian Gordon of the National Gallery queried in 'The Making and Meaning The Wilton Diptych' whether the words this little world '...set in a silver sea' could have been inspired by the Wilton painting. It is clear that the whole of Gaunt's Scepter'd Isle speech was inspired by the Wilton painting.

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